Rise Gold wasn't happy when Nevada County Planning Commissioners voted unanimously to recommend a NO vote on both the Idaho-Maryland Mine project and the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) on May 11, 2023.
In response, they came out with what can only be described as a corporate temper tantrum. Community member and retired corporate attorney, Gail Schultz, wrote an opinion piece describing it as a tactic she learned in law school: “If you don’t have the facts, argue the law; if you don’t have the law, argue the facts; and if you don’t have the law or the facts, attack your opponent.”
It started with a “sour grapes” opinion piece from a Rise Gold Board member (and largest shareholder) the day after the vote – complete with a snarky assumption that our community is economically doomed without the mine, plus a personal attack on Commissioner Terrance McAteer (District 3).
Read his opinion piece in The Union newspaper, and the community's response:
On June 1, 2023, Rise Gold submitted a 164-page letter to the County filled with complaints, assertions of unfair treatment, and public records requests — steps that typically lead up to legal actions. This was followed up with a press release that was published on the front page of the Union newspaper. Rise Gold feels that their “constitutional rights” are being violated. Among their list of complaints: comment letters submitted at the last possible minute, their supporters didn’t get early speaker numbers because the County staff are biased, and Commissioner McAteer ”utilized prepared remarks.” Leaving no grievance (or complaint) unturned, Rise Gold urges the Board of Supervisors to ”publicly disavow the Planning Commission’s recommendation.”
Apparently Rise Gold thinks they can scare the Board of Supervisors into ignoring all of the problems with the project, ignore all of the defects in the FEIR, go against their own planning commission and staff, and approve the project.
Read Rise Gold's press release in The Union newspaper, and the community's response:
Rise may question if the deck was stacked against them, but there are plenty of examples showing that the opposite was true.
The City of Grass Valley, for example, had this to say in their introductory comments to the FEIR. “We are dismayed at the quality and tone of the responses which, in many cases, appear to have been written by the applicant's representative rather than an objective senior County staff member. The cavalier tone of some of the responses to a concerned city who will suffer concrete significant impacts as a result of the Project is disappointing.”
“[The City] believes the FEIR and the County's response have failed to remedy major deficiencies in the assessment of air quality, greenhouse gases, land use, noise, and traffic, and consideration of alternatives which could reduce, or avoid, potentially significant impacts to the City and surrounding County areas.”
CEA Foundation Legal Analysis Finds Rise Claims Meritless
A fundamental misunderstanding of the legislative nature of the Planning Commission’s action renders virtually all of Rise’s many complaints irrelevant.
- It’s a legislative process, not a court case. Rise’s letter assumes that the Planning Commission was required to act in a “quasi-adjudicatory” (court-like) capacity. But that assumption is wrong. Because the project requires a decision on rezoning, well established law holds that such decisions are categorically “legislative”. Rise’s letter wastes many pages arguing that the Planning Commission violated requirements that do not apply.
- Laws were not violated. Even if one assumed that the “adjudicatory” standards did apply, the Commission satisfied the requirements. Courts have long recognized that local decisionmakers have not only a right, but an obligation, to discuss issues of vital concern with their constituents and to state their views on matters of public importance. Furthermore, association with members of community groups opposed to a project, or even membership in such groups, does not establish bias. Nor does having a point of view about a question of law or policy act as a disqualification by itself.
- It’s a recommendation, not a decision. The Planning Commission was merely issuing a recommendation. Nothing in Rise’s complaint letter threatens the validity of the Board’s own upcoming decision on the project.
- Democracy at work - The processing of the Rise application, the active engagement of the public, and the conduct of the Planning Commission were a good example of how democracy is supposed to work. We encourage the Board of Supervisors to continue with the normal processing of this project and not be intimidated by threats or accusations of foul play. For the good of the community, we urge them to Just Say No!
Compromises Won’t Fix the Project
The unavoidable reality is that this project can’t be fixed. Last-minute compromise offers won’t solve problems that are deeply embedded in the Mine’s flawed FEIR and project plans:
- Incompatible use. Rezoning the Brunswick site to allow this mining project next to residential neighborhoods violates the General Plan and would be an incompatible land use.
- The mine threatens hundreds of private residential wells used for drinking water. The FEIR does not address the high degree of uncertainty in predicting the impact to wells in our local fractured bedrock system and it completely dismisses the complexity and expense of providing homeowners with a “comparable water supply” if wells fail.
- There is no viable solution for disposing of mine waste. After the first several years, the project depends upon being able to dispose of 1000 tons per day of the mine waste by off-site sales as fill materials or construction aggregate. But they’ve failed to determine it would be clean enough to sell (or even be permitted to dump anywhere) – and there is no market for "Restricted" mine waste in a flooded aggregates market.
- Mine operations come with a huge cost in greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. The mine will emit over 9000 metric tons of GHG/yr and use electricity equivalent to 5,575 homes/yr. But the state’s goal for GHG emissions is net zero and the energy use is so sizable it would negate key County goals in its Energy Action Plan to improve climate resiliency.